Taking Concrete Actions To Help The Third World

The developing countries, or the third world as it is usually referred, has a huge untapped potential for human development. To help the people in these countries achieve their full potential and thereby rid themselves of the poverty and other ills of underdevelopment, it is essential to understand the problems faced there. Among all possible options, perhaps, it is peace, stability, education and good governance that can help the most.  
Taking Concrete Actions to Help the Third World
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With the recent economic challenges faced by the whole world and the resultant anxiety and concerns about the future, there is a probability that the impetus to help the third world in becoming a mainstream partner of global economy may get diluted. Given the number of lives and the inhuman situations of hunger, poverty and disease that still prevail among hundreds of millions across the world, we need to identify concrete ways of extending a helping hand for them.


Third world is not a different world. The actions required to help it also need not be necessarily different from those that

will people elsewhere.

Understanding the Problems of Third World

The so called 'third world' is far from being a homogeneous mass of people. Except for the common characteristics of poverty and hunger, nations and societies of third world often differ from each other as much as they differ from the other countries. In fact, each one of them has its own share of woes and dilemmas, many of them unique enough to deserve carefully thought out region specific strategies for development.

Because of differences in background and underlying problems, every country needs actions specifically oriented to solve the problems faced by it. However, there are certain needs that every aspiring nation must satisfy, before it can move on to the path of progress. The most important of them is transfer of skills and capacity building of its people.

Comparing Developing with the Developed World

The developed world has taken many centuries to reach their current level of scientific and technological development. The developing world is faced with the difficult challenge of making the same journey in a far shorter period - a task that is arduous to say the least, even with all sort of aids, and even if the technology is offered on a platter without any cost - as it rarely is! Most experts involved in international aid admit that the fruits of aid oriented projects are dependent upon the ability of the country receiving it to absorb and assimilate it.

If we examine the profile of countries that have made the best use of aid offered to them during the last 50 years, it may be possible to identify the most effective form of aid. China, Korea and the other East Asian tigers have all been recipient of aid during the post-war decades, and invariably, benefit to them from aid was maximum when the aid was in a form that helped them build capacity or involved transfer of technology. In fact, the Chinese sincerity and efforts in projects involving high technology is almost legendary, and is the exact opposite of most of sub-Saharan African countries, where enthusiasm and involvement in technology transfer was usually casual, and almost invariably, the demand used to be for aid in the form of money or food grains.

What Actions can help the Third World

The most significant and effective form of action that can help any nation to grow is transfer of skills and education, especially in fields of management, public policy and sciences, both basic as well as applied ones. Usually the countries do not have sufficient markets to absorb these skills, hence even the people trained in these fields with external aid tend to migrate out in search of better remuneration, thereby leaving their own countries high and dry. Even if they remain, they get few opportunities to utilize those skills, in the absence of adequately developed industry and any back-up from their governments.

The second single most effective action to help a third world country is to make a genuine investment there. The foreign investments in most countries lead to significant spill over of technical know-how and skills, and are the surest way of boosting the economic activity there on a sustainable basis. However, it is easier said than done, because the capital moves to the places where costs of doing business are low,

and this criterion is not easily satisfied in all third world countries.

IMF and World Bank have attempted to impose their own conditions of financial and fiscal discipline on the third world governments, as part of their aid packages. However, today their role has substantially reduced, with the emergence of new cash rich blocks like China and Middle East, looking out to use easy loans as part of their political strategies. In this scenario, it would be better if the developed world including OECD and other similar groups try to develop new strategies for inducing such discipline in the third world governments.

The third effective action would be to focus on health sector in these countries. Population, epidemics like HIV and malaria, and malnutrition are three major concerns for the community health in most of these countries, particularly the sub-Saharan Africa. Africa is the fastest growing region in the world today, and the rising number of stomachs to feed is having a very adverse impact on its ambitions to match the other developing regions. HIV is a major killer, with the proportion reaching as high as one in three in countries like Swaziland. Malaria has been the persistent curse of the African continent, and not much has changed in this regard. Health related aid programs focusing on immunization, malnutrition, HIV and malaria can significantly improve the long term trajectory of health in Africa.

Fourth, economic development cannot take place unless there is political stability and peace. A large part of the third world suffers mainly because of the political strife. In South Asia, the India-Pakistan rivalry has impeded growth for decades. The war on terror is taking its toll in many countries like Afghanistan. Countries like Sri Lanka have suffered primarily because of the on-going civil wars there. Large areas in Sudan have virtually entered the medieval era in the on-going Darfur genocide. What peace can help in achieving, can be understood best by the example of Vietnam and Cambodia, where after decades of violence and wars, the current phase of peace and political stability is now helping them in making rapid economic strides. The international community and the United Nations will do a great favor to people of Africa if they can contribute to establishing peace and prevent strife there.

Last and the most important action of all, however, is good governance. This is difficult to achieve without democracy though countries of East Asia, especially China seem to have disproved this theory so far. However, I still believe that democracy plays a vital role in making the government responsive and accountable to its people. Here, it must also be understood that democracies take time to establish and mature, but once established, they are the biggest insurance against internal political instability. Because most people prefer to live in peace, democracies are not easily thrown in war by their leaders, nor adventurous military actions easily permitted there. Unfortunately, democracy alone does not amount to good governance, and in fact, governments with shorter tenures in a democracy can sometimes tend to become very short sighted and populist in their approach.

Good governance is a problem for which each country will have to find a solution itself, and unless they do so, no other help will be able to have the desired impact. What the rest of the world can do in this regard is to help some bright young fellows in those countries to receive specialized skills and training in good governance, and hope they will be able to make a difference back home.

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